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Mummy Congress Paperback – Jun 13 2002


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Paperback, Jun 13 2002
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Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett’s tour of the world’s most unlikely micro-nations, moving villages, secret cities, and no man’s lands, is our #1 pick for 2014. See all
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (APB) (June 13 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140286691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140286694
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,262,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Mummies fascinate us. As we peer at their withered flesh, we are glimpsing a type of immortality. Heather Pringle tells the stories of some of these "frail elders"--and the scientists who study them--in The Mummy Congress.

Pringle details the tension between the preservationists, who want to protect the ancient dead and refuse to unwrap them, and the dissectionists, who see mummies as a repository of scientific data waiting to be studied. She also introduces the reader to the preserved dead from around the world--from the bog bodies of northern Europe to the mysterious Caucasian-looking mummies from China's Tarim Basin, from Egyptians in linen shrouds to incorruptible Christian saints, and from Lenin in his Moscow mausoleum to Incan children found on Andean mountaintops.

Peppered with fascinating snippets of information--for example, for centuries artists were sold on a pigment called "mummy," a transparent brown made from ground-up mummies--The Mummy Congress makes for lively, if somewhat ghoulish reading. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Pringle's mummy experts are livelier than a crypt full of stacked corpses. This is high praise given how successfully the author animates the dead in this delightfully macabre piece of mortuary globe-trotting. The trip begins at the World Congress on Mummy Studies, held last in arid Arica, Chile. Arica's climate makes it the ideal place to bring your mummy as eccentric scholars do, by the busload. From South America, Pringle, a frequent contributor to magazines like Discover and Islands, departs for the global ateliers of this weird profession, from the makeshift morgue of Art Aufderheide in Egypt, where plastic bags full of brittle corpses are piled by the dozens; to the Peruvian mountaintops, where an American adventurer's discovery of a beautiful Inca girl named "Juanita," an ancient and flawless sacrifice to the gods, ignites a media frenzy; to the subterranean caverns beneath Red Square, where a team of mausoleumists tended to Lenin's lifelike remains, and freelanced their skills out to fellow communists wanting to see their own dead leaders under glass. Pringle's gifts as a writer and a journalist are evident on every page. In brisk, vivid prose she delivers the secrets of the mummy trade: mummies as medicine; the self-preservation techniques of Japanese monks; and the Vatican's modern-day practitioners of the temple priest's art. Pringle's mummies and the men and women who love them make for fascinating and lively reading; this book is sure to have, as they say, a very long shelf life. Agent, Anne McDermida. (June)Forecast: A five-city author museum tour and undoubtedly many positive reviews will help the book reach its potentially wide audience, way beyond the usual gallery of science fans.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
The writer brings a journalistic approach to the topic of mummies and the sub-title of the book clearly defines the multiple angles she chose to follow. She covers a great deal of territory, both geographically (all the continents except Antarctica) historically, psychologically and morally.
In a sense this is almost an "Encyclopedia of the Mummy" because it covers so many aspects of mummy hunting, dissecting and preserving. Most mummy hunters seem obsessed by their quest. They may be after mummies for scientific, historic, theatric or religious reasons, but hunt them they must. This raises moral issues; after all these were once human beings that we are putting on display, slicing for DNA or just carting off to some museums storage room. Can we justify it if we, say, understand some disease better after the research? Or is it just voyeurism for us all to know what the Iceman ate for his last meal?
The writer introduces us to individual mummy hunters, strong characters all, and the unusual places they work. Her writing is clear and vivid, if a trifle long. She is at her best describing the moral and psychological issues surrounding our fascination with mummies and the way they relate to our own mortality anf hopes for immmortality.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book recently at the library. And then I couldn't put it down. Author Heather Pringle manages to keep the pace lively throughout this book; not that the subject matters hurts either.
I didn't know much about mummies going into this book, except how the ancient Egyptians prepared theirs. "The Mummy Congress" soon put an end to my ignorance, and in a very amusing, captivating way. In the book, we are introduced to the mummy experts and their beloved mummies in detail. Pringle pulls no punches in her descriptions of the people or the ethcial dilemmas they sometimes face. She also gives the reader a multitude of lessons in mummies. Did you know that some of the paintings you may see in museums were painted with a pigment called Mummy -- made out of ground mummies? Did you know that there are many mummies in South America which tell us how the culture faced grief? Did you know that caucasians once lived in China? Read this book, and you'll learn many such facts. The best thing is that Pringle doesn't write for the expert; she's writing for those of us with an interest, but no experience. And she manages to do it in an entertaining way. I couldn't find any dull parts in this book. So, read it and be amazed at the ancient worlds and people you'll get to know. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
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Format: Hardcover
Pringle displays ample skill as a non-fiction writer: careful word choice, an eye for metaphor and a keen facility for description. She straddles the gap between what she calls " the everlasting dead" and the living (if marginally so, in some cases) who love them, and gives shape to our obsession with styxian realms. The reader experiences vivid cross-sections of what must be an enormous world, the world of mummies: from Lenin's waxy vestiges in his mausoleum to ancient Danes exhumed by nature from their boggy preservation to the brittle clay remains of Peruvian children. Pringle provides wonderful texture to a fascinating and bizarre (nether)world. One wonders why a comprehensive treatment of the subject for lay people has heretofore not been attempted.
Yet, for all the excellent writing and compelling subject matter, Pringle's work lacks falls just short of the last yard: a unifying spiritual theme, a thread of allegory to tie it all together and leave a more permanent impression. One gets the sense that she is curious about mummies and their students, but not consumed by them, not possessed by them. She does not love them, and so cannot make them and her work a transcendent experience, as it so rightly should be. And she comes so close.
Still, this book is a very welcome addition to my scientific non-fiction shelf, and one I will return to again and again.
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Format: Hardcover
The clever and winsome Heather Pringle has succeded in writing a simply wonderful account of the quaint practice of preserving people after their death. Some mummies are probably preserved more by accident rather than intention while others are the subjects of elaborate embalming (cf Nature 413:837-841, 2001). She has included all manner of ancient remains and although her knowledge of paleo-PCR and RNA signatures from reverse transcription is somewhat ephemeral she has done both her footwork and her homework very well. One bizarre practice, that of preserving "wet" modern day mummies in liquid nitrogen in the uninformed belief that they can somehow be resurrected at sometime in the future demonstrates the continued gullibility of the ignorant.
Another emerging technology not mentioned is in preserving bone marrow stem cells or other somatic cells in the frozen state for eventual cloning by nuclear transfer. Cells from at least one former president rest in a freezer somewhere (but without the intention of eventual cloning).
Be that as it may, Pringle's book is a wellspring of information on the philosophy and practice of preserving the human body.
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